The Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition
15 June 2021: Carbon Harvesters emerged the overall winner at The Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition taking home the top prize of €15,000.
The Ireland Funds Business Plan Competition, now in its 10th year, is a pre-accelerator programme designed to help Ireland’s early-stage, student entrepreneurs bring their idea from concept to pitch. Eleven business received mentoring and support through a series of workshops during April, May and June, with the opportunity to compete for €27,000 in prize money and other supports.
Founded by Alejandro Vergara representing University College Dublin, Carbon Harvesters is an AgTech start-up that monitors farm emissions. Designed to promote the implementation of economic climate mitigation strategies, and to monetize verified and certified emission reductions, it seeks to build the resilience of rural communities globally.
Speaking about his experience on the programme, Alejandro commented, “I have participated in many incubation programmes but how personalised the Business Plan Competition was is something that I have not experienced before. The emphasis on customer discovery tailored how my business plan looks. Understanding the customer and their problems is the only way of providing a suitable solution. The Business Plan Competition nurtures that and facilitates interviews with top-notch potential customers where key findings are gathered.”
BIONICS, the first prize winning team from Ulster University, came in second for their biologically inspired deep tech AI surveillance system. The system delivers superior performance and speed, particularly in low light environments or with fast-moving objects, eradicating many problems currently experienced by video surveillance providers and manufacturers.
ECLIPSE, founded by Joanne O’Dwyer and Eimear O’Hara from National University of Ireland, Galway, finished in third place, with their suture closure device which is the only product to immediately and securely close any suture. This expedited wound closure reduces surgical complications and improves pets quality of life.
The Mental Health Innovation Award
Sponsored by St Patrick’s Mental Health Services (SPMHS), the €3,000 award went to Speakeasy, a wellbeing-focused classroom management system that utilises a unique algorithm to identify struggling students and notify school faculty.
Director of Digital Health, Transformation and Partnerships, Orla Gogarty said: “St Patrick’s Mental Health Services is delighted to congratulate the creators of the Speakeasy project on receiving the Mental Health Innovation Award. Speakeasy will be a valuable resource for young people and teachers in the classroom who are in need of mental health support, and its objectives are closely aligned with St Patrick’s awareness and education initiative, Walk in My Shoes. We look forward to working in partnership with its founders on this exciting and worthwhile project which will no doubt play a huge part in transforming how young people access mental health support in the future.”
Due to government restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, this was the second pre-acceleration programme to be delivered entirely remotely by The Ireland Funds. The competition offered 12 weeks of guided support and mentorship to the shortlisted teams to develop a pathway towards building a viable business venture.
2021 marked the tenth annual Business Plan Competition. Over a decade ago, The Ireland Funds America Board Director Bill McKiernan had a vision and a strong desire to make a difference to the lives of students who were carrying a spark of a good idea, but who may not have known what direction to go in. In 2012, that vision came to life through a partnership with The Ireland Funds and the Business Plan Competition has been flourishing ever since. Following this year’s finale, over 270 individuals have now taken part in the programme. 37 academic institutions across the island of Ireland, north and south, have been represented. Just under €200,000 in prize money has been allocated to kickstart business ventures 60% of participating teams have formed viable businesses, and in the last four years alone, alumni have gone on to raise over €10 million in investment and have created 200 jobs.